The superego gets bested by the id in Spanish director Joaquin Oristrell's curious period sex comedy, which mixes intellectual musings on psychoanalysis with vulgar guffaws of the basest sort.
Barcelona, 1913: As the city's psychiatric society prepares for a momentous visit from none other than the scandalous Dr. Sigmund Freud, a very pregnant Alma Pardo (Leonor Watling), daughter of the organization's director and a frequent translator for its foreign lecturers, boldly races into the men's gymnasium where her sister's husband, Dr. Salvador (Luis Tosar), is practicing his pugilistic skills, and breathlessly explains her predicament: Her husband, Dr. Leon Pardo (Alex Brendemuhl) who's also Salvador's best friend and colleague in the burgeoning field of neuropsychology has disappeared after declaring his love and begging her not to go to the police. The mysterious figure Alma passed on the stairs to her apartment mere moments before Leon's surprise announcement leads Salvatore to suspect an adulterous misadventure, but Alma isn't so sure. A devotee of Dr. Freud, with whom Leon studied in Vienna, Alma believes the answer to the mystery lies deep within the text of Leon's recent thesis, "Hysterical Women Four Cases." Leon psychoanalyzes four different "hysterics," and Alma suspects the mysterious figure on the stairs is one of them. To solve the puzzle of Leon's disappearance, she insists they must first discover the identities of his patients. But as Alma and a reluctant Salvadore embark on their investigation and a series of increasingly bawdy sexual escapades they arouse the suspicions of the Pardos' drunken housekeeper (Mercedes Sampietro) and the jealousy of Olivia (Nuria Prims) Alma's sister and Salvador's wife who's hiding a secret or two of her own.
Impeccably costumed and beautiful detailed, the film has fun with the conventions of silent movies, particularly the popular serials of the era, and presents pre-WWI Barcelona as a glittering art nouveau jewel firmly fixed in a strict, conservative Catholic setting. Oristrell seems equally conflicted: Attracted as he is to the figure of the beautiful Alma as the picture of modern feminism she's smart, well-read and light-years ahead of the dull and parochial Salvador, who believes passions are entirely due to hormones his film is ultimately unsure of what it wants to say about modernity, psychoanalysis and all it liberates. leave a comment --Ken Fox